tl;dr - Years ago, I helped start a Makerspace in Honolulu, HI. This is one perspective of its origin story.

I haven’t written about the history of HICapacity because I’ve always felt that there’s a disproportionate amount of weight given to people who start things. Having had several experience starting things, I’d like to argue (for another day) that starting is actually the easy part; it’s sustaining that’s difficult and admirable.

I’ve decided to document what I can remember of its beginnings because to be completely honest, I’m getting old and don’t remember all the details from events that occurred more than 5 years ago. In my old age, I also recognize that there were so many people that are a part of this story that by not writing it, I’m minimizing their contribution in helping shape a small portion of Hawaii’s technology community.

2011

This was the year it all started.

If I were to pinpoint the seminal event in HICapacity’s history, I’d have to say that it was Jerry Isdale’s post on TechHui. What seemed like an innocuous dinner gathering at Los Chapporos brought together 7 people on Oahu that would provide HICapacity’s early foundations. These seven included:

  • Jerry Isdale
  • Matthew Badeau
  • Sonya Eick
  • Gorm Lai
  • Jeremy Taylor
  • Paul Lowndes
  • myself

We don’t remember what we discussed, but we do know that Paul would go on to organize our second meeting at Murphy’s where Jeremy coined the name ‘HICapacity’ as a form of homage to the NYC Resistor.

The second most important event was the 2011 Unconferenz. We all had a feeling that there was enough community support for a Makerspace, but we didn’t fully understand how large that support would be. We’d meet with others interested in growing the collaborative community including:

  • Rechung Fujihira from Box Jelly
  • John Garcia

This was also around the time where I met Ian Kitajima. Most people don’t know this, but Ian immediately opened Oceanit’s doors to us when nobody else in downtown would. Suffice to say, there were many, many doubters on island that informed me this concept wouldn’t / couldn’t work. Ian definitely wasn’t one of them.

Lastly, I feel that the third most important event in HICapacity’s history was meeting every weekend at Petals and Beans. I still remember the advice that Jerry and Gorm gave - “to just be consistent.” When we first started, there were only a handful of us who would come down to hang out, but something interesting happened along the way - word got out and we consistently started occupying the entire coffee shop.

I just knew that we were onto something.

2012 and beyond

As much as I’d love to say that I was part of the community that took HICapacity to the next level, I was already entrenched in NYC finance. Before leaving the islands, a young fellow named Austen Ito would become a part of the core team. Austen would play an instrumental role in getting HICapacity its own physical space. He and the next group of technologists would lead the organization to frontiers that I had only ever dreamed about.

These technologists included:

  • Austen Ito
  • Matthew Badeau
  • Jeremy Taylor
  • James Wang
  • Julie Sakuda
  • Marian Ano
  • Alan Solidum
  • Jason Axelson
  • Edward Kim
  • Noah Haffner
  • Jesse Thompson
  • Bob Matcuk

One of the primary reasons I decided to write this history is to help everyone understand that HICapacity didn’t come about from the heroic effort of the original seven - nor was it solely based on my or Austen’s effort.

It was built by a community who shared the singular belief that a technology-focused, communal space would benefit Hawaii. When looking back at it, I’d do it all over again.

Thanks

Thanks to Jerry, Matt, Gorm, and Paul for helping distill what happened in HICapacity’s early days. Thanks to all the past and current leaders of HICapacity for providing leadership and helping realize an idea that sprung from a message board. Lastly, to everyone who has passed through the space - for sharing knowledge and making for a better technical community in Hawaii.

Save the best for last

In its early days, there was only one person who understood the amount of hours and work required to organize this community. Sara contributed an immense amount of behind-the-scenes work that very few people know about. She supported and believed in me when very few people would. And for that, I can’t thank her enough. Luckily, fate would have that she’s now my wife. #putaringonit